I know, Thanksgiving is tomorrow & I may be getting ahead of myself making our Christmas popcorn, but I think the weekend after Thanksgiving is a great time to start thinking about the edible treats you may want to make during the holiday season.
[side note: A best of edible treats post coming up on Friday & winners of the bring joy tote giveway (I'm giving away to 3 lucky readers!)--if you haven't entered yet, go here--it's super easy, just leave a comment.]
Joseph & I began making some variation of “gourmet” popcorn several years ago.
I LOVE gourmet popcorn (think Harry & David), but often, it’s not vegan and they are incredibly pricey, considering that you can make your own at a fraction of the cost.
We’ve messed around with different variations (our fave is actually a peanut butter chocolate version, definitely something I need to share with you in a future post), but the simple template is: stove-popped popcorn in a bit of coconut oil + a sugar syrup that hardens + some variety of chocolate.
I admit, this recipe uses sugar, which, as you may have noticed, I tend to avoid. Reasons why I use it with this recipe, in the recipe directions below.
This popcorn makes an awesome gift to family, co-workers, friends & this is what we’ll be sending to family & friends with our christmas cards. It’s nice, because it’s light (cheap to ship) & who doesn’t like gourmet popcorn?
I figured it costs about $.75 for me to make each bag (about $.30 of that goes towards the label & bag), which I think is a pretty nice price for a thoughtful & delicious homemade gift.
a vegan, chocolate mint gourmet popcorn--a great edible holiday gift!
- 2 TBS. coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 c. organic popcorn
- 1 c. sugar (or evaporated cane juice, but not sucanat or coconut sugar)
- 3 heaping TBS. earth or smart balance | or other non-dairy butter, or 3 TBS. oil
- 1/4 c. water
- 2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 TBS. oil of choice | or melted non-dairy butter
- 1 tsp. mint extract
- optional: sugar sparkles
- small & medium saucepan
- popcorn popper | either stovetop whirlypop (preferred) or an air-popper
- candy thermometer (not absolutely necessary, but HIGHLY recommended)
- wax paper
- A few notes before we get to the recipe. You can skip the mint extract, but I highly recommend using it. We've made this popcorn without it & it's still delicious, but the mint adds a festive spirit & is kind of unexpected, in a good way. Also, you really should use a candy thermometer. I've tried to just "eyeball" (ie. guess) the soft-ball stage when making the syrup & I totally fail each time. A candy thermometer is rather inexpensive & will save you some tears.
- Also, I tend to stay away from using refined sugars, but since this is a gift we're giving to family (of which we have a lot!) & friends, I wanted to keep the cost down (sugar is remarkably cheaper than say coconut sugar) & most of my friends & family don't care about whether or not refined sugar is in their treats. Additionally, with this particular recipe, refined sugar works far better than sucanat or other unrefined sugars. You can try substituting, but do so at your own risk (ie. don't blame me if it doesn't turn out!). If you're looking for a recipe that uses unrefined sugar, try my nutty caramel corn that's included in my free ebook, SIMPLE, which you can get, here.
- First thing is pop your popcorn. I highly recommend using organic, non-GMO popcorn kernels. I order mine in bulk from Azure Standard at a very good price.
- I pop my popcorn in a stovetop whirly pop popcorn maker--I love it because cooking 1/2 c. popcorn in 1 TBS. coconut oil gives it just enough flavor & fat so that you don't need to add any butter. The coconut oil adds a rich texture that I prefer. You can air pop your popcorn, but I think the overall end product is better if you pop your popcorn in a bit of coconut oil.
- Once popcorn is popped, spread popcorn over waxed paper (I used 2 very long sheets, placed next together). You may want to spray with a little non-cooking spray to prevent the syrup from sticking (but I've done it both ways, & it still works without the spray).
- The next part is a bit of a juggling act. I made the chocolate drizzle & the syrup at the same time, but for someone who isn't used to multi-tasking in the kitchen, I'd recommend starting with melting the chocolate. The thing is, both harden quickly & you'll want to use immediately. But you can leave the chocolate for a few minutes on the stove on low to keep it soft, while you make the syrup.
- Fill a small saucepan with 2-3 inches of water. Place a small ceramic bowl in saucepan & bring the water to a boil. Turn down to medium. Add chocolate chips & oil. Stir occasionally--it will take a few minutes to melt. Keep the heat on medium--resist the urge to speed things up because chocolate can scorch & dry out if you bring the water to a boil. A gentle simmer will provide enough heat to slowly melt the chocolate. Add the mint extract once all chips are melted. The mint extract will thicken the chocolate a little (something to do with the alcohol content, I think?), but don't worry, it will be fine. Lower the heat to low & start making the syrup.
- In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water & non-dairy butter. Stir a few times, bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer (about medium low heat). Don't stir, just let simmer & check on the temperature after 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat once you get to the soft-ball stage. This is the point at which the syrup looks very bubbly, like in the picture below.
- Once the syrup is ready, now it's time to make something beautiful! Drizzle syrup over all popcorn, & using an oiled plastic or wooden spatula, turn the popcorn so that the syrup coats much of the popcorn & there are no big clumps of syrup. The syrup will harden quickly, so you'll want to do this right away.
- Once syrup is on popcorn, grab your chocolate & using a spoon, drizzle over popcorn. A few tips on this: there's a lot of wrist action involved. Once you do your initial drizzle (it'll be more like a big clump--which is great! these clumps of chocolate will harden & are the best part of the popcorn), use your wrist to flick the chocolate. This is where you get to be artistic! Try to cover the popcorn in a uniform fashion & don't stir (you want that pretty drizzled look to harden first).
- Sprinkle with sparkling sugar if desired & let harden (about 2-3 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen). To speed up the hardening process, you can put your wax paper (make sure not to toss or stir the popcorn) on a large baking sheet & place in freezer for about an hour.
- Once the chocolate has hardened, gently break apart pieces into bite size chunks & store in a sealed container. No need to refrigerate. Best if eaten within a few days (which shouldn't be too hard!).
- Place popcorn in small treat bags & add a cute gift label. For mine, I used these gorgeous customize-able free printable tags from Lia Griffith.
Additional Nutrition Info: 20 g carbs, 1 g protein, 2 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 53 mg sodium; WWP: 4 points per serving